Why using AI for scholarship applications may be doing you more harm than good | Blackbullion

‘Dear Scholarship Committee,

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share my reasons for choosing Blackbullion’s program. When considering my future educational journey, I was particularly drawn to this program due to its unwavering commitment to enhancing financial wellbeing for students.’

The above example of a scholarship question response was written by AI. 

While it’s well-written and conveys the point, it lacks something that AI inevitably fails to achieve: the human element of storytelling

It’s also important to note that scholarship reviewers are able to tell that this is AI-driven due to the lack of specificity and lack of a human perspective. 

When writing a scholarship application, we want to know what makes your story unique in your own voice. We want to hear what experiences have shaped you into becoming the person you are today — and, most importantly, what this scholarship means to you, its impact on your life, and what you plan on doing with your future as a result of receiving the funding. 

First, what is AI technology? 

In simple terms, AI technology refers to computer systems or machines that are designed to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI systems leverage data, machine learning algorithms, and models to process information, learn patterns, and make intelligent decisions or predictions. 

ChatGPT is one form of AI, but we use AI technology for so many of our everyday systems, such as:

  • Face recognition software on phones

  • Voice assistants

  • Social media algorithm feeds

  • Netflix’s recommendation sections

  • And much, much more! 

Why you shouldn’t use AI to write your scholarship application

Your scholarship application answers should be personal, unique, and creative. While AI can be used to guide you in the writing process, or as a suggestion tool, it should not be used as a copy-and-paste shortcut to complete your application. 

Second, those reviewing your scholarship application now use AI checkers to review scholarship responses. In many cases, these reviewers are also the hiring managers at the exciting companies offering scholarships. And those applications that are majority AI are often immediately removed from consideration — so by taking the easy route in the short term, you could be hurting your career prospects in the long term.  

Using AI as a writing aid can help refine your work and save time, but it's crucial to maintain authenticity and ensure that the final essay reflects your unique voice and ideas.

Scholarships are earned, not given, which includes the application process. AI can be a tool to help with the writing process — but, it should not replace human creativity, critical thinking, or personal input.  

Here’s how you can use AI as a tool for writing your scholarship responses: 

1. Utilise AI to spark bullet-point ideas

AI can be used as a good starting point for your scholarship application responses, especially if you’ve got writer’s block or are feeling stuck with where to begin. You can type into ChatGPT something along the lines of ‘can you generate an outline for X scholarship question based on X criteria’. 

AI is a great tool for getting those bullet-point ideas down onto paper, and even helping with a rough outline that you can then personalise, but it should not be used to write an entire draft.  

2. Incorporate personal story 

Personal story is the cornerstone of a good scholarship application. And this is where AI can’t help. 

Spend some time digging into your own ‘why’ for needing this scholarship and create a compelling narrative that will help the reader understand what motivated you to apply in the first place. Share meaningful anecdotes that show your growth, challenges you have overcome or instances where you have made a positive impact. 

It’s also important to make your scholarship responses specific to each applications’ requirements. So, familiarise yourself with the scholarship question prompts, evaluation criteria, and any specific guidelines provided.

This personal touch will set your application apart from generic AI-generated content.

3. Edit & proofread

Once you’ve written your essays, dedicate some time to editing and proofreading. 

Grammar and spelling checkers, such as Grammarly, can help you catch errors and enhance the clarity of your writing.

With that said, always human-check your work. While AI tools can assist in identifying errors, they may not catch everything. Read your essays aloud to identify awkward phrasing or confusing passages.

4. Get feedback from real people 

While AI tools can assist in refining your writing, human feedback is invaluable. Share your essays with trusted teachers, mentors, family members or peers who can provide constructive criticism and help you polish your work. 

Just like you, real people can offer unique insights and perspectives, ensuring that your application showcases your authentic voice and ideas.

To AI, or not to AI

While AI can be a valuable tool to enhance your writing, it is essential to strike a balance and avoid relying solely on AI-generated content for scholarship applications. 

By understanding the scholarship requirements, utilising AI to generate ideas, emphasising personal experiences, seeking human feedback and editing diligently, you can leverage AI effectively while maintaining originality and authenticity in your application. 

Remember, your unique voice and genuine perspective are what will make your scholarship essays stand out from the rest. 

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